When Roger Floren, retired co-administrator (with wife Judy FLoren) of Flesher’s Fairview Health and Retirement Center, came into the comfortable meeting room to greet us, he was carrying a handsome cane made of dark wood with a silver ornament on the handle. But he didn’t need the cane for walking; he had brought it to illustrate one of his favorite remembrances of the residents in the assisted living and nursing home facility. The cane had been in his family for 106 years; the silver pommel is shaped into a likeness of William McKinley. One day Roger brought it to show a long-time resident of Flesher’s. He had enjoyed many political discussions with this lovely, alert woman and he thought she might recognize the face.
“Do you know who this is?” he asked.
“Yes!” she replied, and added briskly, “Wrong party!”
Her family had all supported Grover Cleveland. She also emphasized that she herself was not allowed a vote in that election.
Mr. Floren went on to tell us that another former resident, the daughter of a New York politician, was in attendance at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo and witnessed McKinley’s assassination.
As each story led to another equally interesting one, Roger’s deep fondness for past and present residents was clear. They were far more to him than clients — they were friends and family, part of his life.
Herbert Hunter, the architect of Elon College and High Point University who was selected by Franklin Roosevelt to redesign the Oval Office, was a resident for a number of years. When the Florens were building their house, Roger consulted with Hunter because something about the house “just didn’t look right.” Hunter took one look at the plans and said, “The pitch of the roof is wrong.” And so it was made right.
A Ziegfield Follies dancer… the first woman police officer on the NYC force… Eleanor Roosevelt’s secretary… a rural mailman who had to provide his own horse — all of these people found a home where their lives and their stories were cherished. When asked what he felt was the most difficult part of running the facility, Roger said without hesitation that it was “saying goodbye to so many friends.”
Nodding as she sat beside him, Judy and Roger Floren’s daughter Cheri Mitchell agreed. Cheri is the Administrator at Flesher’s now; her sister Susie Cole is the Director of Nursing, and second sister Lisa Dee is the Care Plan Coordinator. They represent the third generation of nurses and family employees, but not the last. Nineteen-year-old Carly Mitchell now works in the activities division while she prepares to go into medicine.
Flesher’s was founded in 1964 by Lyle and Aureta Flesher as a 42-bed rest home. In 1974, the second generation of family involvement took place when Roger and Judy Flesher Floren moved from Atlanta to take on the administration of Flesher’s Fairview Rest Home when Judy’s folks retired. During this time, the rest home was expanded to 64 beds, and today is the Assisted Living facility. In 1991 a nursing home was added to the campus. It was largely through Flesher’s growing needs that water lines, cable and touch-tone phone service was brought down Cane Creek Road.
It’s not only the administrative staff that is a family affair at Flesher’s; a few years ago they took a count and found that over 100 employees are related to each other or to residents. Staff members bring their loved ones to work or live here, many residents are past employees, and often there are several residents from the same family. And Flesher’s helps perpetuate this family tradition by providing some employees full scholarships to nursing school. The Pearl M. Hubbard Memorial Scholarship has already supported twenty-three people through nurses’ training, and three are in school now.
In their continuing effort to provide the finest residential care, plans are in the works to renovate the nursing home facility next year.
But there is one thing that won’t be on the drawing board… which Roger explains in recounting another story. Some years ago there was a resident veteran of World War II who fought with MacArthur and then came home and went to Baylor on the GI Bill. He played basketball there — at six feet he was quite tall enough for those days — and was nicknamed “Rooster.” He was on a Baylor team that made it to the Final Four and played against Kentucky. Fifty years later he was the man of the hour at Flesher’s when everyone gathered to watch Baylor and Kentucky play again, though this time with players who were a foot taller. Rooster was an all-around athlete and avid golfer, and tried to convince Roger to have a driving range built on the hill in front of the assisted living home. Roger had to regretfully decline, he said, in consideration of the people in the houses down the hill. But they remained good friends, and when Rooster died, Mr. Floren gave the eulogy.
Flesher’s Fairview is coming up on its fiftieth anniversary in 2014, and in that time many residents and employees have passed through its doors and called it home. As a matter of fact, Bonnie Flesher Wilkie, Judy’s sister, is scheduled to retire on May 31st after 45 years of service at Flesher’s. But even as new generations of the Flesher family take the reins, the philosophy of the founders is unchanged, Roger Floren is proud to affirm. “Mr. Flesher had the rule that ‘no matter what happens to you, we’re here to help,’ and we are continuing that philosophy today.”